Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mastering the art of the kimono

Since coming to Japan, I have fallen in love with the kimono and spent many hours foraging in antique markets and tiny kimono shops for the perfect design to use in my bags. Although you are often aware of women wearing kimonos here, they are usually only worn by the older generation for tea ceremonies or weddings, and the sad fact is that the art of kimono-making is diminishing. We recently came across an interesting piece on Radio Four that reports on the efforts being made to revive the popularity of hand-crafted kimonos and ensure that the ancient skills are not lost. You can listen to it here.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Washi washi

Yesterday I did a lovely class in washi paper-making, something I've wanted to do ever since I got to Japan. It was a simple class and just a taster of an hour and a half, but was a lot of fun. It was held in the beautiful washi paper shop called "Ozu Washi" in Nihonbashi.

We learnt how the pulp is formed from the inner part of the Kozo tree branches. The branches are cut and steamed in a cauldron, and while the branches are still warm, the bark is removed by hand. The inner layer of the bark is what is used for washi paper. The inner layer is then washed and boiled with soda for a few hours. The soda helps to loosen the binding of the fibres of the branches.The bark is washed again, and then mashed with a wooden hammer. The mashed bark is then put into water in a large container called a sukibune and a slimey liquid called Tororo-aoi is added to help bind the fibres. This is where we joined the process......

First of all the teacher showed us how to use the "sugeta", a sieve-like structure that scoops up the fibre in the water. You have to swing the sugeta backwards and forwards about 20 times (twice) to disperse the fibres evenly across the structure.

You can then open the sugeta frame and take out the "matting" that holds your newly formed fibres.

The newly formed paper is then rolled out onto a mesh screen to dry.

 We were given an array of paper items to decorate our washi paper with. These get sandwiched between two pieces of paper.

I loved the pretty colours of the washi paper so decided to arrange the cut paper in rows. It is placed on the wet paper which is still sitting on the mesh screen.

Once it has started drying (and with the help of a big hoover contraption) the paper is then taken off the mesh screen and placed on a heated plate to completely dry, using a big wallpaper brush.

 Once taken off the hot plate, the paper is slightly curly so is then flattened for a while.

We were then each given the chance to "display" our creations in front of a light ........

Monday, 28 November 2011

St Andrews Ball update

Well, the St Andrews ball was a raging success! Neil and I got our glad rags on and trotted off to the ANA hotel in Akasaka for a night of good food, lots of drink and a host of reeling to live music, performed by bagpipers, drummers, a pianist and some fiddlers - one of which was my friend Sanna who did an amazing job. Much fun was had by all and it was a great excuse to get dressed up.

Note the use of a Cheeky Leopard clutch bag! I was able to fit all the essentials in it, including some sensible dancing shoes.....

I think we'd had a few drinks by this point........

The evening began with an amazing performance by the Tokyo bagpipe group.

Our friend Naoko played the piano while we ate.

Not a bad looking bunch!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Eye on the ball

Well preparations for the St Andrew's Ball are under way. The shoes have been chosen (killer 6 inch heels that I won't be able to walk in, let alone do the Highland Fling!), the clutch bag has been selected (Cheeky Leopard of course!), and the hair has been styled - in true Japanese fashion - an up-do at the local salon. Better get going!

Friday, 25 November 2011

A quick observation

We have always been amazed at how safe it is here in Tokyo. People leave their bikes unchained, knowing that they won't be swiped and if you go to a restaurant or bar, you can leave your bag freely to your side, knowing no-one will run off with it. You can even leave it there when your trot off to the loo if you want! This also means that Japanese people are very trusting.

The other day I was in Shibuya and decided to have lunch at a coffee shop. I had ordered my lunch and my big, juicy sandwich had just arrived when I realised with horror that I have forgotten my purse. I was mortified and very embarrassedly tried to explain in my caveman Japanese, what had happened. The waiter was very sweet and said, "No worries, just leave your phone number and come back later with the money". I was about to jump up and run home to get it and he said, "No, stay and eat. You can get the money later"! I was amazed at his trust in me. Needless to say, I ate the sandwich in record speed and raced home and back again in more record speed, and they calmly took my money as if nothing had happened.....

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A new addition to Daikanyama

We live in an area of Tokyo called Daikanyama and consider ourselves very lucky to live there. We have a wonderful selection of shops and cafes to choose from and have the rather smart area of Daikanyama to choose from, as well as the more neighbourhood area of Naka Meguro down the hill, with the canal running though it.

Daikanyama consists of a big development called Hillside terrace, which was critically acclaimed when it was built. For a long time, a piece of land has sat empty next to it, waiting for something to be built. I wrote about this piece of land last year as there was a sunflower "field" planted on it, which you can see here and there is a picture of the sunflowers below. We were dreading a monstrosity landing there in the form of heavy concrete and faceless glass, but they have actually done a nice job and the complex, which is almost finished, has a really nice feel to it. I love the wall formations, and they have landscaped the surroundings really nicely. We look forward to the "Grand Opening", which is imminent.




Monday, 21 November 2011

The Child Within Us

The relentless rain on saturday was a very good excuse to dip into an exhibition. There was one that I'd wanted to see for a while at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu, so Neil and I decided to go.

This is the third exhibition in a series of three, that uses images of children to document our changing world. The images were carefully chosen from over 26,000 photographs, from World War II to recent times. This specific exhibition portrays how images of children during times of war have been used to provoke reaction and emotion in viewers, and was broken up into themes. One theme just focused on children's eyes and the knowing or emotion that seems to emanate from them, but the overriding feel was the innocence of children and their ability to laugh and play, even in extreme circumstances.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A day in the sun

The weather generally this time of year is stunning, with blue skies and sunny days. Yesterday was a major exception where the skies opened and rain poured and poured all day - pretty horrendous. The nice thing is the rain usually only lasts for one day and then the sun comes out again. Today was stunning and v warm, so we ventured out to Meiji Jingu shrine to soak up the rays and the atmosphere. We were lucky to catch some sort of festival going on where the young girls were dressed up in their finest kimonos looking absolutely gorgeous. I was able to get some lovely shots.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

November Morality poster

The morality posters just keep getting cuter and cuter and this month's is no exception with a cute little hamster/guinea pig typing away on his mobile phone.......

The captions reads "Please be considerate of passengers around you when using your mobile phone". Quite right!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Kimono Clasp Bag

I did a chirstmas bazaar recently and it was a roaring success. People loved the cosmetic bags as well as the kimono fabric clutches - which I love making! This Japanese lady was looking at my wares and I realised that she was wearing a kimono that would go wonderfully well with one of my clutch bags. I couldn't resist getting a photo of the two of them together.....

Organised mayhem

We went to a party on saturday night and this was the carnage that met us when we went to leave! Naturally, everyone takes their shoes off when they enter a home here, which makes a lot of sense. Luckily it was all rather organised, so we were able to locate our shoes pretty quickly at the end of the night.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Curry and a concert

On wednesday evening I met up with my friends Tatsuya and Arthur to go and see a White Lies concert in Shibuya. Before hand we fuelled up by popping into Go Go Curry, an institution in Tokyo that serves up cheap and cheerful Japanese-style curry and tonkatsu in a vibrant yellow environment. You order your dish via a vending machine at the front door (luckily Tatsuya was able to point me to the right button), it prints out a ticket which you hand to your friendly server, and then 10 minutes later, a steaming curry arrives. Not bad! Oh, and the concert was very good too!